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21 July 2008, 17:01

Google Mail has more spam

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Roaring Penguin Software says its research shows that the proportion of email coming from Google Mail accounts that is spam has almost quadrupled, from 7 to 27 per cent. This means that more than one email message in four coming from a Google Mail account was classified as spam, which makes up more than 2 per cent of all spam email originating from America.

The origin of spam email is becoming ever more significant, because spam filters are increasingly basing their analyses of email messages on where they come from – and Google is still considered to be a good address. At any rate, no postmaster can afford to put the Google Mail server on his black list and refuse email from there as a matter of principle.

It is still unclear why Roaring Penguin Software has generalised its results to conclude that spam from free email providers is increasing. The figures presented show the reverse. In fact, a striking feature is that the proportion of spam registered as coming from Yahoo and Hotmail remained largely constant over the period observed. This suggests that the observed rise in spam from Google Mail is associated with the recent cracking of Google Captcha – Spammers outwit Google's captchas. That enables spammers to create Google Mail accounts for sending spam, automatically. It may be that Roaring Penguin avoid making this connection in order to stand out against their reporting competitors WebSense and MessageLabs, who had already noted in March a doubling of the proportion of spam in Google Mail.

Google does continually refine its filters against incoming garbage, in the interest of its clients who suffer from phishing and spam – Google Mail automatically discards eBay and PayPal phishing emails. When filtering what the Google servers send, however, the search-engine giant is evidently falling further and further behind. Researchers showed only recently that Google's filters against the mass sending of emails can easily be circumvented – Google Mail can distribute spam.

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